The business world is being disrupted by the combined effects of growing emerging economies, shifts in global demographics, ubiquity of technology and accountability regulation. Infosys believes that to compete in the flat world, businesses must shift their operational priorities.

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Thoughts on Innovation

by Satish Bhat, Engagement Leader, Infosys Consulting

Innovation is a journey and not a destination.  The moment you feel that you have innovated, you are no longer innovating.  This notion is in line with the notion of “Excellence” so eloquently articulated by Barkha Dutt, chief guest at the Infosys 2006 Awards for Excellence.

Those sitting comfortably "in the middle" are not likely to innovate.  Innovators tend to be either at the cutting edge where they are proactively deploying resources and creating mechanisms to innovate or they are so deep down the drain that they have to innovate just to survive in their industry.
 
Every innovation does not have to be a blockbuster innovation.  When several smaller innovations come together, they could have a collective impact that is bigger than the sum of the parts.  We see that on the automotive dashboard all the time.   All the small technology innovations by the various tier-1 manufacturers and their suppliers who make the components of a dashboard come together to form a dashboard that is intuitive and ergonomic.


Fear of failure is a big detractor on the path to innovation.  The organization must emphasize that a certain percentage of attempts to innovate will fail and that is OK.  Otherwise, the fear of failure will create a significant barrier to innovation.

Comments

If the people / companies who are deep down the drain need to innovate for survival, they ought to have fear in their minds about what will be their future lest the innovation fails. So, the fear of failure is not necessarily a detractor but could be a motivator too! It's not the fear of failure but the constricted freedom (to innovate) that matters.

Welcome Mr. Bhat, and I wonder if you are a canara Bhat (I mean from SK, Udupi or NK), any way welcome to this mean and no-holds-barred world of blogging. The famous SK gentleness and politeness will not work here. But anyway, this Infosys blog is very soft and genteel. Probably that’s because it is being nurtured by a lady.

Your post on innovation made interesting reading. In fact the Japanese with their continuous improvement strategy (Kaizen) are past masters of this innovation game. They have interesting offshoots of this main theme. They have a technique where in an idea is passed on person to person and he or she has to add value to it and the end result of this passing the idea - ball game is examined and vetted for its economic potential.

As such, the IT/Consulting/ITES/BPO segment is fast becoming the brains trust of the world. This segment is not only the repository of knowledge and intelligence it is pleomorphic and as Charles Darwin says it is not the intelligent of the species that survives, but it is the one that is most responsive to change that survives. The very talk of innovation is about creating changes and change management. So this IT/Consulting/ITES/BPO segment, as we can surmise from Charles Darwin’s observations, is very adept at change management and hence is gaining more and more power in the scheme of things globally.

Furthermore Swami Vivekananda has said life is a game of might and mercy and that life is expansion and death is contraction. In this light, if one observes the action and goings on in the field of IT/Consulting/ITES/BPO segment, with INNOVATION as its buzzword I dare say you guys are expanding vertical by vertical across societal functioning. So you guys have a long action packed life ahead of you.

Yet there is one field that will have an edge over the IT/Consulting/ITES/BPO segment. That is the bankers-financial consultants-agencies-venture capitalists combine. Yet they will also fall for the innovation buzzword. You see humanity survives on HOPE. The greatest marketers sell HOPE. (You might have guessed it, I am a marketer). Innovation is touching on that HOPE factor. Organizations (and individuals) have an insatiable appetite for topline and bottomline growth; and growth in assets (because wealth is like the game of monopoly – those who have more assets, including brand assets, are wealthier, now I read it somewhere). Innovation is now the HOPE to whet some of this appetite. So with innovation being actually about creating positive changes (read: a vista to become wealthier) it is one trend that will engage business and societal leaders for a long long time, till someone from the finance field blows the whistle and calls for consolidation, ie going slow on innovation and diffusion of innovation, so that the innovated entities and processes can bring in monies (the ROI thing will take over).

For innovation and positive changes (and hence more wealth for the organization) three things are essential:
a) a learning climate (in the organization); learning at both the individual and organizational level
b) a flat organization to generate ideas and diffuse ideas 360 degrees so that they get strengthened; you see, in non flat organizations, idea generation and innovation gets stifled mainly by prejudices, perception of threat to ones authority and power by the ones in power and an absence of meritocracy (flat organizations tend to cultivate meritocracy)
c) an organizational excellence group in the organization that drives quality management initiatives (in fact this is a very very important aspect; today ICICI is a great organization much of it thanks to its organizational excellence group. In TATAs there is business model driving change management, organizational excellence & quality initiatives through its Tata Business Excellence Model. There is a very senior group in the TATAs dedicated to see the agenda through).
So if you and other bloggers like my take on innovation above, as a response to Mr. Bhat’s blog post, do visit www.pharmaceuticalshealthcare.blogspot.com for some more action.

I also post advance New Year Greetings for 2007 to this blog community. Hope the New Year 2007 will pass off slower than 2006 and bless us all with lots of prosperity and happiness.

Precise & insightgful.

In my view, majority of employees in a company "work" but innovate less. Even if they do, they (as well the company) fail to recognise the innovation. Further, I see a lack of urge to innovate among those just out of college. Companies like Infosys and others must make a consicous attempt to try and cultivate a sense of innovation as part of the orientation & induction program.

Innovation is within everybody. Few seem to recognise it. Others may need some class to find it in themself.

Innovation at all levels in an organisation is going to help companies like Infosys as the business of software is tending towards the commodity way.

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